Today began again at the local high school, Sainte Anne. For the morning, our group split up, going to classes in all areas of study. The most surprising part of the morning for me was in the chemistry/physics class. The class of 10th graders were studying acids and bases, but they appeared to add each substance without measuring, paying little attention to what was going on. I spoke with one girl, who told me, “My friends and I pay little attention because we already know we do not want to study Science. I will be studying Literature, and my friends want to study people. So for the Bac, we will do the L (literature) and the ES (economy), but no science.” I suppose this attitude is a hazard of choosing a discipline early: the sophomores must decide their course of study in preparation for the Bac, the french college entrance exam.
In the afternoon, we left the school for a walking tour of the city of Brest. We walked into midtown as a light drizzle rained down from the sky. The main street was lined with shops, pharmacies and eateries. I had my first French cappuccino, which I’d been craving for days. We then toured the “Abry Sade Carnot,” the underground bomb shelter tunnel, that remained after World War II. During the war, german submarines used the port of Brest as a base, and so the American forces bombed the city to try and attack the Germans. Sadly, the city of Brest became collateral damage – much of the city was completely decimated. The people of Brest had to evacuate, but a small group stayed behind in the underground shelter. Unfortunately, almost all those who stayed behind perished in a fire within the shelter, because they could not make it out in time. The shelter has become a historical place to tour, and contains art and information on the sad Brest history. You can even climb the steps upon which the citizens lost their lives.
After visiting the Abri Sadi Carnot, we had some free time to visit local shops before going to the city hall to speak with the mayor of Brest. At City Hall, we were greeted by the Mayor, who gave a speech. In his speech, the mayor welcomed us to the city, but he had a political message as well. He spoke of the importance of international relationships to preserve peace, and urged us to continue making these connections. We were presented with gift bags and refreshments, and then we all returned with our hosts to their homes. The day was quite long, but as my jet lag begins to wear off, I find each day less exhausting and I think that this is the first day where I can really appreciate the amazing opportunities presented to us. I finished my day with a plate of spätzle and another chapter of the Brothers Karamazov for my Russian Literature class, because le “grind” n’arrête jamais!